Rest, Reflect, Act

Posted: December 29, 2013 by Chuck Matthews in Culture, People, Planning, Startup

Dr. Chuck Matthews“And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.”

          – Rainer Maria Rilke

With the 2013 rapidly fading into 2014, it is fitting that we take time at the end of the year to pause and reflect on where we have been and where we are going.  There is something exciting about looking back on successes, failures, good times, and not so good times and realizing that the future beckons us to look forward to new vistas, hopes, fears, and dreams.  The writer Carl Bard captured this excitement very succinctly when he said, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

This is especially true for entrepreneurs, who constantly seek to solve problems, introduce new methods of production, innovate new products and services, and generally seek to meet and exceed customer expectations at every turn. 

A very successful entrepreneur once told my class that entrepreneurs are doers not dreamers.  They take action – not tomorrow, but today.  They get off their butts and make something happen.  In essence, entrepreneurs marry thought (ideas) and action to generate goods and/or services that address a “pain point” in an unserved and/or underserved market.  They execute ten simple steps (six strategic and four tactical) that propel them forward.  

Leverage Knowledge Networks.  Creating a new venture is not just about financial capital leverage, but human and social capital connections.  Seeking advice, forming “kitchen cabinets,” learning and applying ideas, concepts, practices from a broad range of people and sources are hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs.  They make connections.

Sieze Opportunity.  Academics love to debate whether opportunities are created or discovered (it is both), while entrepreneurs love to exploit market inefficiencies through new ideas that have the potential to generate profit. There are basically three types of business opportunities: situational (e.g., the market is huge); action (e.g., leasing a larger retail space), and market (e.g., an underserved market).  It is the unserved and/or underserved market opportunity that is most compelling.  Think Nike in 1964, Apple in 1976, or GoPro in 2002.

Be Competitive.  There is always competition.  Consequently, you need to be competitive. Work on building three levels of competitive competencies in your business:  basic (what your company does well), core (things done better within your own company value chain), and distinctive (unique and better than the competition).

Take Action.  The first three steps set the stage for how to take action.  For example, Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro, had a great idea – capture high quality action videos, quickly, professionally, and easily. Leveraging and exploiting his knowledge network, he directly targeted a growing underserved market opportunity, and built (and continues to improve) GoPro’s competitiveness (basic, core, and distinctive).

Generate Likes. Likability is neither automatic nor can it be taken for granted.  It takes work.  This is true given the growing social media outlets that thrive on “likes.”  See nurture loyal customers.

Nurture Loyal Customers. To grow your business, build a loyal customer base.  This applies for both business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer products and services.  See generate likes.

Identify Sourcing.  The first six steps set the strategic stage for success, while it is the tactical operations that set a firm apart.  Sourcing encompasses everything from personnel talent (e.g., recruiting and training) to the quality of your product and service offerings (e.g., managing quality control).

Make Timing Work.  A product or service whose time has come is always easier to see than the one yet to be. Think Starbucks in 1971, when the conventional wisdom was no one would pay $3.50 for cup of coffee.  Starbucks, however, wasn’t selling a cup of coffee. It was a bad time to sell a cup of coffee for $3.50, but the right time to introduce a new coffee experience.  Often technology previously not available becomes the center piece for a new venture, such as GoPro’s product capabilities.

Be Aware.  Be aware of change that leads to ideas that give birth to a new venture (e.g., Facebook in 2004).  Unattended, however, even dominant leading edge ventures are vulnerable (e.g., Research in Motion lagging in smart phone technology).

Rise to the Challenge. At the end of the day, the measure of a company is not taken in its success, but rather in how it responds to challenges.  How a company responds to its employees, customers, and stakeholders ultimately defines it in the marketplace.

Enjoy the Holidays!  Now that you have had time to rest and reflect, it is time to take action.  Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

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